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The Nerdy Dali Lama

April 15th, 2012 No comments

I’ve been called some flattering stuff in my day, but that one may take the cake.

The other night I was hosting some friends for dinner and lengthy conversation ensued.  One of the facets of conversation was me fielding questions about how Tracy and I do and manage this or that as a married couple.  These friends are younger and earlier in their relationship than Tracy and I, but on their way to getting married and eagerly committed to creating and maintaining a strong and delightful relationship, one that’s built to last.

Humbled and delighted was I to learn that they look to us as a role model of a married couple, and that the way that Tracy and I interact is something they aspire to.

So we riffed about anything and everything on their mind about the matter.  I had the profound privilege of getting to play the role of guru, being asked questions about how we handle this or that and having my impromptu answers be heard with earnest curiosity.

It’s no secret that I love me doing some coaching: the opportunity to contribute to someone just by offering up questions to ponder, places to look, things to put attention on, and new perspectives to consider is just rad–super satisfying by itself and even personally enriching in the process (you just can’t coach about something without getting it yourself).

So this was that.  We riffed about divvying up chores, communication and misunderstandings, love languages, job satisfaction, long term game plans, having shared goals and dreams, and so on. With every question I got I just directed my attention inside, listened for an answer without ego to muffle it, and spoke whatever popped into my head.  It was fun and gave me a shiny and fresh appreciation for how Tracy and I roll.

By their reaction it looks like I gave them some useful things to chew on–a lot of ahas, a lot of interest, a lot of inspired glances thrown about.  The best was when she said at one point “Wow, you’re like the nerdy Dali Lama.”

Wow, what a fun title.  I’ll take it.

Actually that was the second best.  The best was when he suggested I should be giving a TED talk.

“Seriously, either in any of the philosophical stuff we’ve been talking about1, or from the stuff you write about on your business blog, you could totally come up with a talk worthy of a TED talk.  I’ve got some friends who are organizing a TED event next Tuesday in Oregon.  It’s short notice so probably not feasible, but something for you to consider.”

Something to consider indeed!  I’m going to let Tuesday in Oregon go, but, dang–that fits in really nicely with my current game to become a famous nerd making massive contributions to the world.

Notes:

  1. In our conversation I was referencing a lot of philosophy drawn from transformational teachings I’ve played with during the last 8 years.
Categories: Enlightenment Tags:

Reflections on Doing The Artist’s Way

March 24th, 2012 No comments

One of the promises Tracy and I made to each other as part of getting married is to maintain (and act upon) a persistent commitment to growing and developing ourselves.

(We figure this is a very good thing because if you’re going to spend seven decades with another human being, you’re way less apt to get sick of them if they are constantly changing in the direction of becoming more rad.)

So when our friend Nick told us he was doing The Artist’s Way, a book by Julia Cameron whose sub-title is “The spiritual path to creativity” and which takes you through a 12 week process of exploring and unfolding it, we were quickly game to take it on ourselves.  (Kudos and thanks to Lee, who first introduced me to the book when I visited her in San Francisco back in November ’05: I was intrigued then which made me quick to jump in now).

The Artist’s Way has two core activities that you do regularly over the 12 weeks: Morning Pages and Artist Dates.  Morning Pages mean the practice of writing out, long hand, 3 pages of whatever is floating around in your brain first thing in the morning, every morning.  Stream of conscious, just keep writing until you’ve filled those three pages.  Artist Dates mean once a week do something, anything, that nourishes your spirit, and do it by yourself.   Without interruptions and anyone else to please, take time for you and no one else.

The act of keeping up Morning Pages alone is well worth the price of admission1.  For me they started feeling a little cumbersome but quickly turned into a delightful and downright practical ritual.  Things swirling around in my head got quickly sorted as simply what’s going on (with suddenly zero added anxiety or concern for how it will turn out).  A vague sense of what I should be focusing on (which for me is apt to creep in between contract jobs) turned into a clear path of to-dos and compelling motivation.  Dreams and visions and purpose for my life got created and refined over the weeks.

Purpose and vision got created regularly on a smaller scale as well: at about halfway through the second page I would often start to create exactly what I wanted to accomplish in my day, and with brain well primed with all the great things I wanted to do by mid-page three I could hardly wait to get on with it and start kicking ass in my day, armed with purpose, clarity and excitement.  (If you’ve never experienced this phenomenon on a regular basis, say, daily for a week, you really might want to try it.)

Artist Dates were a treat, too.  The author challenges you to actually make time and space for such indulges, and invites you to experience how much push back to doing so you will likely put up.  Among other things I took myself out to Peruvian restaurant for dinner and a big glass of Malbec, saw an improv comedy show, took a walk through downtown on a snow day and made snow angels in the park, holed up in a coffee shop reading Heinlein with a decadent hot chocolate, and took a field trip to the science museum.

The author is right: these were things I just wouldn’t have organized for myself without the external prompting.

Regarding going through the twelve weeks with someone else: a very good idea.  Tracy and I regularly compared notes on how it was going, the insights we were gaining, and things we were creating.  It was a shared experience that added depth to our relationship.

And the end result?  I’ve got big dreams worth playing for which constitute purpose and direction for the next few years (put simply I want to be a famous nerd, following in the footsteps of the thought leaders and contributors in my craft who make the world a better place).  The coding work I do is now thoroughly recognized and related to by me as artistic creation, and bringing my art to my work both shows in quality and elevated enjoyment in doing it.  I’m reconnected to my roots as being the art guy as a kid (it’s strange how thoroughly I’d forgotten) which just feels good and grounding in a way that is hard to described without getting all woo-woo.  My month between my tenure as CTO of DealNation and the next big project was flush with purpose and accomplishment, and tangibly sowed seeds of awesome for what was next.

Finally, through the experience and growin’ I am indeed a more interesting and rad person to my love, thus fulfilling more on the promise.

At about 10 hours per week, this was twelve weeks and $18 very well spent.

Notes:

  1. About $18 off the bookstore shelf, in case you were wondering.
Categories: Enlightenment Tags:

Why Do the Landmark Forum

August 25th, 2011 No comments

I was the production supervisor for a Landmark Forum last weekend (volunteer gig–a useful exercise in leading/directing a team plus I’ve a soft spot for getting a refresher on the material).

It’s such a good course.  And even though I had some pretty kickin’ things happen as a direct result of doing it back in ’041, I typically do a shite job of conveying to anyone else why they should want to.

But I think now, with a few years of perspective since then and a few years of practice with the tools and concepts they teach, I’ve got a simple way to break it down, to illustrate what the Landmark Forum does.

Imagine a spectrum, and everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum.  On one end you’ve got a view of the world that sounds approximately like this:

people around me are idiots, I’ve got to do the best I can with what fate has laid out for me, that’s just the way the world is, life is far from perfect…but I’m working on it

On the other end of the spectrum there’s a view of the world that sounds approximately like this:

people around me are awesome, it’s up to me and only me how my life turns out, I’ve got a say in how things are and how they go, life is awesome and I’m free to play as I please

Visually, the spectrum looks something like this:

Those people messed it up.
I don’t have a say, no one does.
My life is rough because I got a raw deal.
They’re a jerk.
I’m better than everyone else around here.
No one but idiots around me.
It’s a flawed world, I’m working on it.
Nothing to do but deal with what is.
I can impact everything.
If my life is a mess, that’s on me.
I can see how I was being a jerk.
We’re all pretty great.
No one but awesome people around me.
It’s a perfect world, I’m playing in it.

You know people who fall far on one end of this spectrum or the other, and if you look you can probably place yourself somewhere on it with relative ease.

So here it is.

The Landmark Forum starts with people wherever they are on this spectrum, and over the course of 3 days, nudges them towards the blue side.  Maybe a little, maybe a lot.  But always towards the blue side of that spectrum.

Looking at it this way, I understand why doing the course (i.e. moving towards blue on the spectrum) doesn’t always seem like a good idea for people.  There is some serious comfort to be found towards the purple end of things: knowing that certain people simply are bad or beneath you, shrugging off lackluster circumstances as out of your control, and being able to point to this or that as cause for what’s not working.

It’s all good and comforting stuff, at least in small doses.

By a similar token, I understand why people often say to me that others should do it (even if they themselves can’t be bothered): it’s great to be around folks who complain less and love more, even when it’s hard work to do that yourself.

So that’s why do the Landmark Forum, in a grossly simplified nutshell: to move further towards the blue end of that spectrum.  Though there are no doubt juicy comforts of dwelling closer to the purple end, life on the blue end is wickedly powerful and enlivening–once you get the hang of it, you’ll never look back.

Notes:

  1. Out of my Forum I got my (first ever) girlfriend (2 weeks later), a $6,000 raise at work (3 weeks later), and made serious peace with my mom about my parents’ divorce
Categories: Enlightenment Tags:

Bluffing About Books I’d Recommend

January 7th, 2010 No comments

A friend of mine Tom is a huge fan of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, a treatise on a [then] new form of psychotherapy that was formulated based on the author’s experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.  The central premise is that man can deal with whatever life throws at him, so long as the “why” or purpose of it is present and deemed worthy.

At his recommendation I gave it a read, and because he’s looking to get it republished and refurbished for the times, he asked me how likely, on a scale of one to ten, I would be to recommend it to others.

I told him I’d give it a two.

It’s a good book and I actually do find it recommendable.  So why just a measly two?  I told Tom that I have about ten other books in the area of philosophy/transformation that I would recommend before this one, and how often do you have a single person follow so many of your reading recommendations as to get that far down the list?

Tom called my bluff and said, in essence, “wow, that’s cool–tell me your ten, I’m interested!”

Here’s the list I banged out in answer to most his reasonable request:

  1. Laughing with God by Jerry Stocking.  It’s my island book.  Fantastically whimsical, made up conversation between a regular dude and God.  I think it’s my most favorite personification of God, and the most believable too.
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  Classic, super pragmatic and spot on in it’s wisdom.  I found it noteworthy how many of the chapters map on pretty cleanly to the distinctions taught in communication courses I’ve taken, and vice-versa.
  3. The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.  Not overtly transformational per se, but a really poignant guide to mapping out what REALLY contributes to quality of life versus all the clutter that we pretend is.
  4. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  Sub-titled “A guide to Spiritual Enlightenment”, it’s thick but super powerful if you can wrap your head around it.
  5. The Multi Orgasmic Couple by Mantek and Maneewan Chia.  Delightfully useful in its own right, and there’s nothing quite like the spiritual, positive Taoist slant on sexuality to wash away a lot of the head trash of anxiety and shame that still lingers pretty prominently in Western culture.
  6. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen.  Eating well for both flavor and being well nourished contribute pretty strongly to quality of life in my book, and this quick read is a fantastic treatise on the current state of our industrial food production, how much our diet has slowly morphed into so much processed corn, and what’s available out of a simple return to real food.
  7. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.  Super interesting read loaded with food for thought about humanity’s place among all life on earth.  (I get the biggest kick out of the jellyfish story.)
  8. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.  The life and times of Jesus from age 6 through to the end of his ministry (including the in-between years that biblical accounts always seem to skip over), as told by his smart ass best friend Biff.  Ironically the most accessible delivery of Christ’s message I’ve ever encountered, and funny as hell to boot.
  9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.  Narrative of life during a 17 day motorcycle road trip, with well written philosophical bits brilliantly interwoven.
  10. How to Win By Quitting by Jerry Stocking.  Series of self contained essays on the cultural, personal, and societal games we play and appear to be stuck in without even realizing it.  Food for thought for recognizing the water you swim in, and insight into how much of life we think we’re bound to is actually quite optional.